Since his breakout NCAA Season 90 back in 2014, 6-foot-6 center Joseph Gabayni has quickly become not only one of the Lyceum Pirates’ anchors, but also one of the highly-touted amateurs, with his steadiness in racking up points and in hauling down rebounds.
The ceiling was sky high for the product of the University of Santo Tomas juniors program, with the way he was delivering the goods for the Intramuros-based Pirates. And his performances alone were enough to wish Lyceum a bright future ahead.
But everything went on a downward spiral after Gabayni, Season 90’s Defensive Player of the Year awardee, figured in a motorcycle accident last May of 2016.
Season 92 opened in June also of last year, but Gabayni was only able to return late in August after fully recovering from the accident. As a result, the Rizal resident never regained his old form, only playing 10 games with norms of 2.6 points and 3.2 rebounds.
In just a snap, the once highly talked-about big man in the collegiate ranks became a forgotten one.
However, Gabayni became the talk of the town once more this 2017, as he made another surprising career move — he left Intramuros and decided to take his talents to Legarda to be part of Arellano University Chiefs, his third school since transferring from UST.
And his first-ever test if he has what it takes to be a Chief was in the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup while playing for Racal Ceramica Tile Masters, where Arellano head coach Jerry Codiñera is also the one calling the shots.
His first-ever stint in the amateur ranks did not go the way he had wanted. During the nine-game span of the elimination round, Gabayni was often seen riding the bench. And as the round concluded, Gabayni only averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds.
“Noong elimination, ‘di ba, hindi ako masyadong ginagamit. Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘always ready lang, darating ‘yung time ko na maipapakita ko kung ano ang kaya kong gawin, kung ano yung kaya kong mabigay para sa team’,” shared the 23-year-old.
And the most opportune time came for Gabayni in the conference finals, where the Tile Masters faced eventual champions Cignal-San Beda HD Hawkeyes. Racal were only able to attain a runner-up finish, but proved to be the best Gabayni the team has seen.
In the best-of-three series that went the limit, Gabayni — from his dismal norms in the elims — notched his game higher as he collected an average of 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 1.0 dimes.
“And then ‘yun, nung dumating ‘yung time ko, binigay ko lahat ng kaya kong ibigay para manalo kami.
“Kaso hanggang dito lang ang inabot eh, second place. Hindi namin nakuha yung trophy,” Gabayni lamented.
Gabayni’s unleashing in the title bout was enough to show that he has gotten back his form. But he is far from satisfied, however, insisting that he still has a lot of work to do, as he believes he can provide much better.
“Kung may masasabi man ako sa nilaro ko, kulang pa, may kailangan pa akong i-improve. May pwede pa akong i-improve, and hindi ako titigil mag-improve para makuha ko yung gusto kong makuha,” he reflected.
“Kahit saan, kahit anong mangyayari, gagawin ko.”
Now that he will spend a year in residency with Arellano, Gabayni is looking forward to working with the Chiefs and under Codiñera once more. He is hopeful that this relationship with the PBA great-turned-coach will turn out to be another learning experience.
“Magandang sign kasi coach ko, big man, then hindi lang siya simpleng big man. Alam natin, Defense Minister, ‘di ba, [at] legend din.
“So looking forward na maganda ang magiging coaching niya sa akin and yung ilalaro ko rin para sa team ng Arellano,” Gabayni hoped.
As his second run in the developmental league has come to a close, Gabayni admits to learning plenty. But for him, the most valuable intangible he has acquired is his maturity — both as a player and as an individual.
“Yung maturity ko. Natutunan kong mas maging patient — kung ano ang ibibigay sa akin, kung gaano karaming oras, gaano katagal na oras ang ibibigay sa akin,” shared Gabayni.
“Kailangan maging ready ka lang kasi pag pinasok ka, kailangan may maitutulong ka sa team, and para sa team mo lahat. Lahat gagawin mo para sa team.”